Gauntlet: Darkness Calls
Fall's upcoming Gauntlet reboot seeks to make the classic dungeon crawler relevant again while still maintaining its classic charm. Though Arrowhead hasn't delved too deeply into an existing IP with a legacy like Gauntlet's, its solid Magicka and what we've seen of the upcoming Helldivers, show that the indie developer is up to the task.
For those unfamiliar with Gauntlet, the original 1985 release set a precedent for dungeon crawling action experiences. We had the chance to look at the four characters you can play in the action/RPG.
Note: This demo was played with an Xbox 360 gamepad on PC.
Thor the Warrior
"I would give all my gold for a stake of boar." Expect to hear that quite a bit if you take up the axe of Thor. With no ranged attacks to speak of, enemies need to be taken down up close and personal. His light attack allows you to swipe quickly, administering a number of hits in quick succession, capable of killing the weakest of enemies handily. His heavy attack, while not useful against hordes of foes, is more than apt for taking down stronger single-enemy types.
When surrounded by a large group of undead, pressing B to activate his special spin attack is the way to go, launching Thor into a whirlwind of pain and destruction against the undead. He may be the strongest hero hit for hit, but his style of combat may result in him needing more food than the others. As Thor hits hard, you wouldn't expect this pile of muscle to be agile. By aiming the right stick, however, Thor can charge up a dash that allows him to run through enemies. If the fight gets to be a little much or if you are trying to quickly get to the end of a dungeon and don't have the time to fight, the dash allows him to shove by enemies unharmed.
Thyra the Valkyrie
If Thor is too brash of a melee character for you, then it may be in your interest to take a look at Thyra. Her light attack is similar to that of Thor, though it's a bit faster and a bit weaker. Still, she is more than capable of dispatching the weakest of beasts with single hits. When fighting stronger enemies, or worse yet summoning stones, you will need to enforce different strategies than Thor.
Her heavy attack is excellent when trapped in a corner. It deals massive amounts of damage and causes her to dash through enemies, emerging more or less safe. It isn't very effective against strong single enemies, though, as those may best be left to the powerful Thor. Her special move is a shield throw that bounces off enemies as well as walls and objects. It wasn't the most handy of abilities in that it never saved my life (the dash was more effective in that regard), but it was a good and quick ability that could take down multiple enemies at once.
By aiming the right stick, Thyra raises her shield in front of her. This blocks all damage from oncoming strikes, including ranged attacks. If a zombie attempts to hit you with his sword and you block him, he will be knocked back a decent distance away and will be stunned, allowing you to move in for the kill. Stronger enemies are stunned for less time, though, which is an important distinction to make when devising battle strategies.
Merlin the Wizard
Merlin is the most difficult and the most rewarding class. He has nine spells at his disposal, all of which are powerful and useful in certain situations. Since there are so many, there probably won't be just one single spell you will use in every given situation. Learning when which spells work the best is what makes Merlin the most complex character to play.
Y: The standard fireball. Hits a single enemy and deals a moderate amount of damage and shoots relatively fast.
X: A long non-stop ice beam. It's slow to move around, but eats through an enemy's health faster the longer the beam rests on a single target.
B: Merlin surrounds himself with an electric bubble that bounces melee enemies back and deals a small amount of damage.
Y+X: Fast icicle shots that pierce enemies hitting lines of foes. You can shoot many of these at once but the individual shots are relatively weak.
X+Y: A spiraling fire blast. The power is also weak and travels through enemies, but it forces them to catch fire easily and deals damage over time.
Y+B: This fires a barrage of five or six small lightning balls. These are moderately powerful and Merlin can shoot them at a decent speed making this a strong attack to use against hordes of monsters.
B+Y: If you're ever at a point when you're facing ten or fifteen enemies, get them in a bunch and use this giant fire blast spell. It's very powerful and capable of taking multiple enemies out at once with one strike but it's slow to recharge.
X+B: Unleash your inner Sith lord with this Force lightning-esque spell. The range isn't very long, but it shoots fast and can kill many enemies with one hit. It's a very powerful ability but is balanced by being slow to recharge.
B+X: The slow casting speed and the fact that this spell does no damage on its own makes it difficult to find a use for it, but it may have its upside. Casting it results in a large and slow ice ball that travels through a number of enemies before dissipating, freezing them. Unfortunately, being frozen doesn't do any damage and they only remain frozen for a short window of time.
One issue that I ran into with Merlin is the auto-target. During certain points, a stone would appear that summoned more enemies as time went by, making it imperative to destroy it. But as I aimed my magic at the obelisk, the spells went for the nearest monster, missing the summoning stone, even though it was a more or less clear shot and the spell was aimed directly at it. I would need to get very close to the stone to prevent this from happening which often resulted in my getting pummeled by enemies.
Questor the Elf
Despite Merlin having the most abilities at his disposal, Questor felt like he had the most useful abilities, resulting in possibly the most accessible character in the game. Players who grasp his bow will be treated to a twin-stick shooter-like gameplay experience. Using the left stick to move and the right stick to fire and rotate allows Questor to fire multiple arrows per second in any direction the action is. Though the arrows are fast and many get launched in quick succession, they are relatively weak individually.
Questor also features a roll move, allowing him to tumble through enemies without taking damage. The roll also doesn't require any noticeable recharge, either. If after shooting at a horde you get backed into a corner, simply tap B to roll until you're at a safe distance to start shooting again. However, since the arrows don't do a lot of damage on their own, you can save time by pressing LT. This drops a bomb that explodes after a few seconds, capable of killing a large number of undead in a single blast. For the stronger single-type enemies with more health, you may resort to using the charge shot. By holding RT, you charge a powerful arrow capable of killing most common ground troops in a single accurate hit.
The four playable characters in Gauntlet all have advantages and disadvantages that serve to suit any sort of playstyle. Arrowhead is pulling out all stops in their attempts to revitalize the classic series for the modern age. Gauntlet is set to release on PC on September 3. Be sure to read our previous hands-on with the title.